(Reuters) - Law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP on Friday said it has had “preliminary discussions” about hiring lawyers from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, which is struggling amid high debt and a raft of partner defections.
Greenberg said in a statement it has had talks “relating to” Dewey lawyers, but has made “no commitments” and has “not reached agreements” about whether to hire those lawyers.
Dewey is saddled with large debts, including a roughly $125 million bond, and may be considering a possible prepackaged bankruptcy that could include a merger with another law firm, according to news reports.
But Jill Perry, a spokeswoman for Greenberg, declined to comment on Friday on the timing or nature of Greenberg’s talks relating to Dewey, including whether they centered around a full merger or merely the hiring of certain lawyers.
In its statement, Greenberg said it has never participated in a merger. Perry would not say how many Dewey lawyers Greenberg had discussed or how far along the talks were.
A spokesman for Dewey did not respond to a request for comment.
Dewey has lost about 23 percent of its partners, or roughly 70 lawyers, since the start of the year as the firm negotiates with creditors to lower its debt.
Reuters on Thursday reported that Martin Bienenstock, a bankruptcy attorney at Dewey and a member of the firm’s five-person executive team, had tapped bankruptcy attorney Albert Togut to help counsel the firm on its restructuring options.
Dewey is in the process of negotiating with its lenders, including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.
Firm leaders said this week that the vast majority of recent departures were part of its plan to reduce its partner ranks to improve profitability.
Last year, Dewey hired a number of high-profile, well-paid attorneys. It has been unable to pay many of its longer-term partners in full in recent months, according to two partners who have left.
Dewey was created by a merger in 2007 between 250-attorney Dewey Ballantine and 700-attorney LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae. At its height in 2008, it had 1,450 attorneys, according to The National Law Journal.
Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder; Editing by Ron Popeski